July 16, 2024

With the perennial concern of forest fires destroying pine forest covers in Benguet, the maguey plants are seen as a way to curb the occurrence of these hazards.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera in partnership with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-Pcaarrd) is implementing a project that would build green belts, using maguey plant (Agave cantala) within the forests of Bokod and Tublay.

Watershed and Water Resources Research Development and Extension Center Chief Helen Madumba said the maguey plant is made up of 80 percent to 90 percent water which enables the plant to absorb extreme heat.

The project launched in 2021 called “S & T Action for Emergencies and Hazards (SAFE) for forest fire in the Watershed in Bokod and Tublay, Benguet using maguey as greenbelt,” is being implemented by the DENR-Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau for three years.

The establishment of greenbelt areas is seen to curb fires that have destroyed some 9,702 hectares of natural forests and more than 3,000 hectares of tree plantations in the Cordillera, mostly in Benguet and Mountain Province.

In the first semester of 2024, the DENR reported that the widest areas destroyed by forest fire were Benguet’s forests near Baguio with 8,314.29 hectares and in Buguias with 679.57 hectares, followed by 635.33 hectares in Sabangan, Mountain Province.

Project leader Rhandy Tubal said they have already put up a 5.12-kilometer maguey greenbelt in Bokod and Tublay. 

The 1.28-km. of maguey is located at Barangay Daclan in Tublay, while around 3.84-km. traverse the borders of barangays Bobok-Bisal, Poblacion, and Pito in Bokod.  

Maguey plant is not invasive and is a good reforestation plant in the current project area.

Tubal said it would take five years for the maguey plants to reach full maturity where it grows 2.5 cm after three months of planting. 

“In 2026 the canopy would be denser, that’s the time the maguey greenbelt would be more effective against forest fire,” Tubal said. 

Madumba said two maguey nurseries were put up in Bobok-Bisal and Daclan to grow replenishment for the greenbelts. The communities are also being taught fibercraft skills using maguey as another benefit from maintaining the succulents.

She said once the project is evaluated as effective, the project would be expanded in other areas of the Cordillera which is prone to forest fires. – Ofelia C. Empian